It’s ok to turn off the news

Today our Digital Comms Officer, Alice, writes about her anxieties about the Russia/Ukraine situation. Alice says “when I’m anxious I write to put those worries into words. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way, so decided to share my thoughts with others”

It sometimes feels like the past few years have been nothing but bad news. There’s never a good time to hear about war, but now, when we’re all exhausted from two years of living with Covid-19, it feels like the worst possible time.

It seems like people are talking about it everywhere you turn. It’s almost impossible to escape. Even on social media, lifestyle and other previously light-hearted influencers are suddenly taking a break from posting Outfits of the Day to talk about it, to post links to terrifying articles, and to ask for donations to humanitarian charities.

For me, it’s too much. It’s constant. It’s out of my control. And when I feel helpless, I feel hopeless.

But when I scroll past the news articles, or mute people on social media for speaking out, the guilt comes on thick and strong. You’re selfish. You don’t care. You’re apathetic. You’re not an ally. You’re ignorant because you don’t want to follow what’s going on in the world. You’re stupid because you’ll be unprepared when the worst happens.

I’m sure I’m not alone in how I feel.

And I have to remind myself – are those feelings true?

If I didn’t care, would I feel so sad when I read about it? If I were ignorant, why would I feel bad at all? Is the worst going to happen just because one person on a forum said it would?

Challenging anxious thoughts is vital

I like to think of my anxiety as a bully. Someone who tries to get me to believe the worst things about myself and the world. Because misery loves company.

They’re a cold hand on my shoulder, reminding me they’re always there. They whisper false conclusions based on circumstantial evidence: “see, someone on social media has the same worry as you, so it’s definitely going to happen”.

I used to think I was just an anxious person. But over the years I’ve realised that, although anxiety seems to come more naturally to me than some others, it’s not a core part of my personality.

Anxiety forces you into default thought processes – if you always assume the worst will happen, you will carry on assuming the worst will happen, even though it rarely ever does. It’s a cycle. Challenging those thoughts, as and when they come, is an important part of breaking the cycle and changing your thought process. Doing things like yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and practicing mindfulness can really help with this.

There are loads of free resources online that you can use to start addressing anxious thoughts. For example, our Bristol Wellbeing College runs free courses and workshops (both online and in-person) on loads of mental health and wellbeing topics, including managing anxiety, meditation, and practicing mindfulness through art, writing and other creative activities. It’s also a great opportunity to meet others who may be going through the same things as you.

However, challenging your default thought processes can take time. If you are feeling worried about the news right now, here’s a vital reminder:

It’s okay to turn off the news

You are not selfish.

You are not apathetic.

It doesn’t mean you don’t care – if anything, it means you care a lot.

Modern journalism doesn’t succeed by just reporting the straight facts. It depends on clicks and engagement. This means the cycle of news stories, journalistic opinions and conjecture is never ending. Someone always has to bring up the ‘worst case scenario’. It’s too much for anyone!

Social media is also driven by engagement, and the goal is to get a reaction out of you. Content can be crafted to make you feel angry, sad, or scared. Facts can be twisted to fit agendas or to intensify your reactions.

With this in mind…

Tips for managing anxiety about the news

  • If you want to stay up to date with the news, pick one reputable source and closely monitor how much you are reading about it.
  • Stick to the main news updates. Avoid reading opinion pieces or conjecture where journalists predict what MIGHT happen.
  • Try to avoid reading about it on social media, especially opinions from people who aren’t experts or directly involved.
  • If you see something that particularly worries you, such as someone’s opinion that the worst is going to happen, ask yourself “is it definitely true?”. In most cases, it’ll just be someone expressing their own anxiety or speculation designed to make you feel scared.
  • Don’t be afraid to mute, unfollow or block people on social media if they are posting too much about it or posting upsetting content.
  • Don’t be afraid to step away from the news or social media altogether – your wellbeing is the most important thing.
  • Speak to a friend or family member about your worries – chances are they’ll understand exactly how you feel and can help you cope.
  • If you feel like your anxiety is getting too much to handle, speak to your GP, counsellor or mental health team. If you need immediate support, call 111 or the Samaritans on 116 123 for free.

Finally, remember that you don’t need to take the weight of the world on your shoulders, and you’re not the one who needs to fix it.

Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you

Do you have any thoughts about this blog post or have any of your own tips you’d like to share? Message us publicly or privately @wearesecondstep on Twitter or Instagram.

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